Michael Juan, DO
1. Please introduce yourself (name, age, Canadian undergrad/masters, medical school, graduate year, residency program and year, AOA or ACGME, and state).
Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience - I am honoured to offer some points of advice here for my future colleagues!
My name is Michael Juan. I am a "nontraditional" medical student and I am 32 years old. FYI if you are interested in my background, feel free to read a couple of articles that I published:
Undergrad and masters degrees: University of British Columbia; BSc in cellular biology/genetics and MSc in physiology.
Medical School: Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM), Class of 2017.
Residency: Radiology at Cleveland Clinic (ACGME program in Cleveland, Ohio).
2. Can you tell us more about how you handled researching ACGME programs willing to sponsor a visa? What was the process like?
It took more efforts than I had anticipated! The first and easiest step is to search the Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access (FREIDA) online system for program information. You should be able to learn a lot about a program just by doing this. However, more often than not, the program will specify that they ONLY accept J-1 and are unable to sponsor H1b. For the ones that do not specify, I find that they purposely withhold the information about H1b sponsorship unless you actively seek them out. As such, it is in your best interest to email each one of the programs that you are interested in and obtain the information "from the horse's mouth" instead of giving up on applying to certain programs because you assume they don't accept J-1 or offer H1b sponsorship.
3. What about the transition from OPT to H1b - how will this be handled? Are you worried about the future given the recent changes in H1B visa processing?
There is plenty reliable and up-to-date information on this. Briefly, you need to start applying for the OPT sometime in March (or earlier) if you think you might have a chance at matching into a program which sponsors H1b. This is because it takes ~90 days for document processing and it is a rigid requirement to have the OPT before your residency start date.
No, the recent changes in H1b process is theoretically temporary and my understanding is that the expedited processing will become available again in October of 2017. However, anything could change at this point! Keep in mind, however, that most academic institutions and nonprofit organizations have no cap on the number of H1b visa sponsorship and this allows the lawyer to file your application at any time of the year. Therefore, as long as you work with the legal department of your institution as soon as you match, the new changes to H1b processing should have no bearing.
4. From your experience, have you noticed any advantages pursuing a US-DO vs IMG-MD degree?
Absolutely US-DO is the way to go! I work with many IMG-MDs and, for the most part, they are fantastic! However, just like anywhere else, they are often perceived secondary to US-MDs and US-DOs when it comes to residency application, unfounded or not. This might not be as important if one's goal is to match into a primary care specialty in a community hospital which has a track record of accepting US-IMGs but it certainly limits one's options. Traditionally, US-DOs have been placed behind US-MDs, but with the MD-DO postgraduate education merger, I foresee this changing for the better.
5. Any advice for students currently researching residency programs? Specifically, radiology?
Do an away rotation in programs that you are keen on potentially matching. This is controversial as many will advise that away rotations will not help and will even hurt you in radiology. However, it is my firm belief that you should absolutely take advantage of doing away rotations as this 1) almost always guarantees an interview, 2) affords you more firsthand insights to discuss during the interview, 3) show your face among the PD, attendings, and residents, and 4) most importantly, helps you determine your fit with the program.
6. How did you go about ensuring you secured "good" letters of recommendation? What advice do you have?
Perform well on ALL rotations (even the ones that are remotely related to radiology)!! Your reputation as a student develops very quick and spreads even quicker. Make no mistake that people talk between departments and it can either make or break you. Seek out the people you would like letters from early and look for opportunities to do more than just presenting your patient on rounds. Volunteer to present on a topic, write up an interesting case, and help out on/initiate a research project. This will help substantiate your letters!
7. Any specific 3rd or 4th year rotations you recommend?
This will sound like a broken record as I am certain that you have heard this from numerous sources but it is tried-and-true: 1) work hard and be proactive, 2) be observant and insightful, 3) CARE about your patients and the service your provide, 4) be professional, kind, genuine, and easy to work with, and 5) function as a contributing member of the team, not JUST a student.
8. Are you surprised to see the interest in osteopathic medicine by Canadian premeds grow so fast in recent years?
Yes and no. Either way, I am glad that the DO profession is receiving more positive exposure owing to all the Canadian DO "trailblazers", almost all of whom are doing outstandingly in the field.
9. Do you mind providing COMSA with you email address so that it can be used as a contact for students interested in pursuing radiology?
Mike.firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck to all of you!